Protester's funeral becomes new flashpoint in Sudan unrest as protests spread

 Protesters funeral becomes new flashpoint in Sudan unrest as protests spread

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese police clashed with mourners on Friday during the funeral of a 60-year-old protester who died from a gunshot wound sustained during a fifth week of anti-government demonstrations.

They fired live ammunition after some mourners hurled rocks and chanted slogans demanding an end to the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir, a Reuters witness said.

Police used teargas against protesters in another part of the capital Khartoum and also in the adjacent city of Omdurman, on the other side of the River Nile.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday he was worried about the situation in Sudan and encouraged the government to respect human rights and "restrain any form of handling the situation of demonstrations that can undermine those rights and can of course be dangerous to people."

Earlier, around 5,000 mourners turned out for the funeral and burial of Moawia Othman, who was shot late on Thursday.

Mourners blocked a main street in the Burri district of Khartoum with stones and chanted "There is no God but God!" and "Martyr! Martyr!". Several were wailing and crying and some were carrying Sudanese flags.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

After Othman had been buried and the weekly Muslim Friday prayers began at noon, the mourners dwindled to hundreds who began chanting "Down, that's it", which has become the slogan of protesters signalling their main demand for Bashir to step down.

As the atmosphere in the area grew more tense, police pulled out of Burri completely, leaving no security presence on its streets. The Burri protests continued late into the afternoon.

Elsewhere, demonstrators blocked Sahafa Zalat Street, one of Khartoum's main arteries that runs through some densely populated districts. They included older people and many women, not just the young who have dominated most protests so far.

At least seven police vehicles, other security forces' vehicles and riot police were at the scene.

In Omdurman, police fired teargas at dozens of protesters as they left a mosque in the Wad Nubawi district, witnesses said.

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The wave of protests in Sudan began on Dec. 19 over price rises, but quickly turned into demonstrations against Bashir. He has blamed the unrest on foreign "agents" and challenged his opponents to seek power instead through the ballot box.

But the near-daily protests pose one of the most serious and sustained challenges to Bashir's rule as his party prepares to change the constitution to allow him to seek another term.

Security forces have at times used live ammunition to disperse protesters. The official death toll in five weeks of protests stands at 24, including two security forces personnel. Rights groups say the figure may be nearly twice as high.

In violent clashes in Burri on Thursday, a child and a doctor were shot dead, the Sudan Doctors' Committee, a group linked to the opposition, said. A live video posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed security forces pointing guns at protesters in Burri.

Sudan is mired in a deep economic crisis that now requires radical reforms or a bailout from friendly nations.

Critics blame years of economic mismanagement for Sudan's woes. The government announced an emergency 15-month austerity programme in October, but it still heavily subsidises basic goods. The inflation rate increased to 72.94 percent in December from 68.93 percent in November.

Sudan's economy was also weakened when the south seceded in 2011, taking about three-quarters of the country's oil wealth.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by William Maclean, Gareth Jones and David Gregorio)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date: Jan 19, 2019 01:07:22 IST